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What causes social norms to change?

Social norms change
What causes social norms to change?
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In your opinion, why do social norms change over time? What role do social norms play in our lives? Why should we follow social norms and teach our children to try to follow social norms in the classroom?

why do social norms change over time?

In this article, we will answer this critical question, why do social norms change over time. We will examine 3 critical theories that show why social norms change over time. We also talk about Changing social norms meaning. You will understand this concept better by reading this article.

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social norms that have changed in the last 10 years

The definition given by sociologists of changing social norms refers to the transformation of cultures, institutions, and functions. When we research social norms past and present, we find that most changes are not instantaneous, and at least these changes have been made over 10 years.

Social norms, values, and cultures change over a long period in many societies.

The reason for the slowness of changes in social norms is that there are different sectors and forces in the society that resist the disturbances of the existing situation.

Read more : social norms meaning

Social norms change in 10 years
Social norms change in 10 years

changing social norms examples

Before taking action, you should know that changing social norms requires continuous effort. We cannot change the norms all at once.

Step 1: Find the behavioral gap.

In the first step, you should find out what behavior people do and what behavior you would like people to do. Identify the changes needed.

Step 2: Find a motivational speech.

Now that you have found the answer to why social norms change over time and are trying to make changes in the behavior and existing social norms, you should be more effective.

Ask people who are socially popular and people like them to take action to change a specific social norm because speech and invitation to change social norms alone are not enough (Kraft-Tod et al., 2018).

Step 3: Communicate with others with a different behavior

In addition to persuasive speeches, an influential person can change social norms in this practical way. An example of changing social norms is to greet a person by asking how they spent their day.

Step 4: Use systems thinking to create a new norm

People learn new social norms through interactions, cultures, and institutions. So plan now to change old and annoying norms and try to teach your colleagues applicable social norms.

Step 5: Get notified

It is necessary to inform people in all groups about changes in social norms. In this way, they will be effective in changing social norms.

Step 6: Reinforce the change in social norms

You can use storytelling to reinforce new social norms. This way, you will talk about the benefits of changing group norms. There is no need to talk in groups about breaking and stopping other old social norms.

Theories of social change

It is impossible not to witness the change in some social norms in various societies. Because changes related to social norms are inevitable in all communities. Of course, we cannot know precisely the cause of these changes. But sociologists have been able to create three main theories for social change with different ideas and models, which are:

  • Theory of evolutionary social change
  • Functionalist theory of social change
  • Social change theory of conflict.

evolutionary theory of social change

In the 19th century, sociologists developed the evolutionary theory of social change. Sociologists also used Darwin’s theory of evolution to analyze society and social norms.

Do you know August Count? He is known as the father of sociology. He also believed in the evolutionary model.

Now, it might be interesting to know about the evolutionary model theory in sociology. According to this theory, society always progresses to “higher levels.” Like other living organisms, society changes from a simple and primitive stage to a more complex one.

If a society does not adapt quickly enough to the changes, it will be left behind.

According to the belief of many sociologists, Western societies progress because of this. Because they quickly adapt to the changes made. But in underdeveloped communities, an obstacle causes changes to be made slower in these societies.

Read more :Difference Between Norms and Values

Social norms change in the workplace
Social norms change in the workplace

functionalist theory of social change

To find the answer to why social norms change over time? We need to examine the functionalist theory of social change as well.

This theory teaches us that society is like the human body. Each part of the society has a unique function, like an organ. Each organ cannot survive alone. The main leader of social science, Emile Durkheim, believed that all parts of a society must be harmonious, and if there is no unity between them, the community will be “like a pile of sand.” This example will be a heap of sand due to the looseness and vulnerability of society, which can collapse at any moment.

Functionalism theory believes that society always takes actions towards stability. Even if problems occur, they will be temporary, but if there is a problem, attention from other departments is required. This attention will be to changing social norms so society can adapt to the existing changes.

Of course, this theory has shortcomings. For example, it is indifferent to race, social class, and gender. Functionalism peaked in the 1940s and 50s but eventually declined in the 1960s.

conflict theory in social change

Conflict theory introduces society as inherently unequal and competitive. The leader of this theory was named Karl Marx. Marx partially believed in the evolutionary model. But he didn’t think that each step would lead to something better than the previous step.

In his opinion, the rich and powerful control and exploit the vulnerable groups of society. In this way, it creates conflict and provokes people, and changes in social norms occur.

The conflict model gradually evolved so that in other theories such as feminist theory, queer theory, and critical race theory, an effect of conflict theory can be seen.

How social norms are formed?

In the last part of the article, we gave you information about the approaches that led to social norms change. These approaches initially change people’s beliefs and values.

In the next stage, people’s thoughts and feelings will be affected; in the last scene, these changes will affect people’s behavior. In this way, social norms will change step by step. Changing the behavior of individuals will eventually lead to changing the behavior of the group and society.

Even different social networks and social media can essentially lead to changes in social norms, such as the prevalence of empathy and altruism, and explain to many people the harms and dangers of early marriage.

Social norms change and empathy
Social norms change and empathy

Conclusion of how do social norms change:

Social norms change all the time. As the level of literacy and knowledge and different cultures change, people learn how to change the social norms of the past. Changing norms does not mean breaking social norms examples does not have consequences. What is your opinion? Please leave us a comment.


  1. Kraft-Todd, G. T., Bollinger, B., Gillingham, K., Lamp, S., & Rand, D. G. (2018).
  2. Paluck, E. L. (2009).
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